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Home » Eye Health » Eye Conditions » Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)

Pink eye or conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye infections, especially in children. The infection is an acute inflammation which causes redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, which is the clear mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and the surface of the eye. Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria or even allergies such as pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics or other products that come in contact with the eyes. Some forms of pink eye can be highly contagious and easily spread in schools and at home.

Symptoms of Pink Eye

Pink eye develops when the conjunctiva or thin transparent layer of tissue that lines the eyelid and the white part of the eye becomes inflamed. Symptoms can occur in one or both eyes and include:

  • Redness in the white part of the eye
  • Itching or burning
  • Discharge
  • Tearing
  • Swollen eyelids and
  • Crusty eyes in the morning

Causes of Pink Eye

There are three main types of pink eye infections: bacterial, viral and allergic conjunctivitis.

Viral Conjunctivitis

Viral Conjunctivitis is usually caused by an adenovirus, the same virus that produces the recognizable red and watery eyes, sore throat, cough and runny nose of the common cold or upper respiratory infection. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious usually spread because of poor hygiene especially a lack of hand washing.

Symptoms of viral conjunctivitis usually last from five days to a week but may last longer. Since there is generally no medical treatment for a viral infection you have to wait for the infection to run its course. To avoid spreading the infection to others, it is recommended to stay home from school or work until the symptoms disappear which is usually after 3-5 days or up to a week.

Viral conjunctivitis typically causes a light discharge and very watery, red eyes. To relieve discomfort, you can apply cool compresses to the eyes and artificial tears.

Bacterial Pink Eye

Bacterial pink eye is usually caused by Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria and is often characterized by a significant amount of yellow, sticky discharge. Also contagious, bacterial pink eye can be picked up from bacteria found anywhere and often spread to the eye by touching them with unclean hands. Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk for bacterial pink eye due to the handling of lenses and unclean contact lens cases.

Treatment is usually administered by antibiotic eye drops which should begin to show improvement after three or four days, however the infection can also resolve itself after a week to 10 days without treatment. If you do use antibiotic drops, you can return to work or school 24 hours after you being treatment.

Allergic Conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is not infectious or contagious as it is an allergic reaction to something in the environment such as pollen, pet dander or smoke. Symptoms, which occur in both eyes, include redness, itching and excessive tearing.

The first step in treating allergic conjunctivitis is to remove or avoid the irritant, if possible. Applying cool compresses and artificial tears can help to relieve discomfort in mild cases. In more severe cases, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines might be

prescribed. In cases of persistent allergic conjunctivitis, topical steroid eye drops are used.

Pink Eye Prevention

In all cases of pink eye, practicing good hygiene is the best way to prevent from catching and spreading the infection. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and don’t touch your eyes with your hands, especially if you work with or around small children.

If you have allergies, try to stay indoors on days with a high pollen count and to keep doors and windows closed. Inside the house, clean air duct filters, vacuum and dust frequently to reduce the presence of allergens.

Dear Patients,

Dr. Lewis Eye Care has made the difficult choice to temporarily close due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic based on the recommendation of the CDC. We cannot perform eye exams while maintaining social distancing, so continuing to see patients at this time could contribute to the spread of the virus.

Our initial plan had been to reopen Monday April 6th. However, as we get closer to that date it is becoming apparent that we may have to be closed for a longer, indefinite period of time.

If you are having an urgent eye health issue, there are some clinics in our area that are seeing patients for emergencies during shorter business hours. You should call ahead to those offices before going to their clinic, as their availability might change day by day. Those clinics could include Vancouver Eye Care at 360-823-2020, Peace Health Medical Group Eye Care at 360-514-7210, and Vancouver Clinic in Salmon Creek at 360-882-2778.

If you need a glasses or contact lens prescription emailed to you from our office, click on the Contact Form link, type in your name, email, and what you are requesting, and we will email you the information you need as soon as we can.

Thank you for your understanding, and please stay healthy during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Dr. Scott Lewis, OD